The Climbing Pothos Plant
Everybody has seen this plant. The ease with which it grows in
low-light areas and the facility with which it roots from cuttings
have made it one of those ubiquitous house plants. It creeps and
crawls off of kitchen windowsills, office desks, and bathroom
countertops. Its vining nature makes it a natural for trailing out
of hanging baskets and planters atop room dividers far from its
tropical home in the Solomon Islands. It has had several scientific
names and one of them even stuck as its common name. Now known as
Epipremnum aureum, most just call it pothos, or Ceylon
creeper. The word pothos actually comes from the word for ivy in
Sinhalese, the language of that tiny nation now known as Sri
The specific epithet (the second of those words in its name)
refers to the lovely golden spots and streaks that fleck the
foliage. When grown indoors, the heart-shaped leaves are just a few
inches across, and are shiny and smooth. If you happen to let it go
in a greenhouse or outdoors in the tropics (even southern Florida),
it will astound and delight with enormous leaves, many more than
two feet in length. These adult leaves are reminiscent of
split-leaf philodendron. The smooth edges develop deep cuts that
make them look like they’ve been slashed by a knife. In the
rainforest where this species normally grows, these incisions allow
the large volume of rainwater to pass quickly through without
In the shade of a tall tree, the vine climbs quickly by leaning
up against the trunk and attaching itself with adventitious roots.
The once stately tree is lost in the burst of pothos foliage. Will
it do that in our Mediterranean climate? Probably not, but, might
it be worth a try? I’m thinking about it. The investment is small;
little rooted cuttings are available almost anywhere, including the
shelves outside your local supermarket. And you might know somebody
who has one and can give you a cutting. It will root easily in a
jar of water or pushed into some potting mix. From such a tiny
slip, you just might grow a tropical wonder.
• If May gray extends into June gloom, watch closely for powdery
mildew. Wash spores off foliage early in the day or add 1½
tablespoons vegetable oil, 1½ teaspoons baking soda, 1 tablespoon
vinegar, and 1 tablespoon dishwashing detergent to one gallon water
and spray leaves well.
• Watch for giant whitefly with its white fuzz. Pick off
affected leaves and discard.
• Replenish mulch everywhere up to six inches to provide
nutrients and retard water loss.
• Plant all warm-season flowers and vegetables through the end
of the month.
Virginia Hayes, curator of Ganna Walska Lotusland, will answer
your gardening questions. Address them to Gardens, The Independent,
122 W. Figueroa St., S.B., CA 93101. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.